Hidden in the Woods (2012)
Review by Jude Felton
Every once in a while a movie comes along that courts controversy. Sometimes this is intentional, and sometimes it just can’t be avoided. Either way, it usually results in an increased amount of press, regardless of the quality of the film itself. Hidden in the Woods, or “En las afueras de la ciudad” as it is known in its native Chile, is one movie that has acquired a certain amount of controversy, due in main to patrons leaving the theater during its festival run. After having watched the movie, I can sort of see why, looking at it with mainstream eyes, but as a fan of cult cinema I think it is slightly unfounded.
If your average Joe, or Josette, sat down and watched Hidden in the Woods, I am sure that would have a mental episode, as what happens on screen is not something you see in your everyday horror flick. It is an intense affair, and actually rocks the worlds of exploitation and grindhouse, more so than horror, and paints its brutal picture with all the subtlety of a pit fight. This is a mean, visceral and unapologetically brutal foray into a world most of us pray to never see. The reason I say this, is that the film is apparently based on true events, although I suspect that have been greatly exaggerated.
What is this beast about though? Why the flurry of baiting comments and hyperbole? Yeah, I guess I should really fill you in on that, as loosely as I ever do.
Two young girls, Anny and Ana live in the woods with their father. He’s a brute and has a rather objectionable relationship with his daughters. They also have a deformed brother, whose arrival is one such scene that’ll rattle a few folk. Anyhoo, the father deals with the local drug lord and things go tits up when the police start sniffing around.
Cue an incredible bloodbath and the father goes on the run, with the drug lord convinced either he or his daughters have his merchandise. This results in him sending a bunch of goons into the woods to find the family and the drugs.
That’s really a fairly loose explanation of a plot that, whilst fairly simple, goes off in many different tangents which involve sex, cannibalism and copious amounts of violence. Hidden in the Woods is a rough old flick, of that you can be sure. However, unlike the recent I Spit on Your Grave 2, which is just plain hard to watch (due to content and quality combined), Hidden in the Woods is actually damned good fun. Maybe fun is not the right word, but this is still a viciously entertaining slice of cinema. It’s also a film that will divide audiences in much the same way as films like The Bunny Game and The Lords of Salem has; I can’t see there being much middle ground here.
Hidden in the Woods is a non-stop barrage of ugly imagery and even uglier people, even if the daughters are quite easy on the eye. No one gets out of this film smelling of roses, probably because they are caked in blood. This film is brutal, just in case you missed it.
On the downside of this, the subtitles are fairly grim and I think something got lost in translation. Apparently calling the girls hookers every two minutes is the way to go, and Sunday is not the answer to “how is everything?” For me though, it was a minor distraction from a film that bristles with untamed energy as it punches your senses.
Director Patricio Vallandares, who also co-wrote the film, has delivered a film that probably won’t make too many friends, and I doubt very much if he cares. Hidden in the Woods is what it is, and you’ll either dig it or you’ll hate it. As you may have guessed I fall firmly into the side that totally enjoyed it; I loved its raw look, the savage intensity and the sheer futility of events. I don’t recall one “money shot” that the film relied on to sell it, unlike some other so-called extreme movies. Instead, this is just unrelenting from start to finish.
The DVD, which is released by Artsploitation, is an impressive beast as well. There’s a reversible sleeve, with the reverse featuring improved artwork, a short but informative booklet, an interview and some behind the scenes footage. All in all a fine job has been done, with this slick looking package.
Overall though, you have to take this film for what it is; you’ll either “get” it, or you won’t. You’ll love it or hate, and quite honestly I can see both sides of this. It’s not light or easy viewing, but then it’s not supposed to be.
Hidden in the Woods is trash cinema dialed up to ten, shot in the balls and left for dead.
Hidden in the Woods is available now on DVD and VOD from Artsploitation Films.